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Insider Only X’s & O’s: Two heavyweights go toe-to-toe, Pens plagued by poor transition defense in loss

Blues 5 – Penguins 4 OT

As the Pittsburgh Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner for the second consecutive season, the St. Louis Blues played spoilers with a 5-4 overtime win on Wednesday night at the PPG Paints Arena.

Alex Piertrangelo scored a 1:15 into overtime to sink the Penguins who rallied down from two goals in the third period to force overtime.

Pittsburgh’s first two goals of the season came from defensemen, Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta, as the Penguins were involved in a back and forth game through 60+ minutes.

Maatta and Schultz not only found the back of the net, both had great possession numbers, Maatta at 68% (19/9) and Schultz at 65% during even strength play.

Down 4-2 with under eight minutes to play, Pittsburgh got third period goals from Sidney Crosby (1) and Conor Sheary (1) a 1:04 apart to force overtime.

The Penguins over the final six to seven minutes of regulation flashed that signature ability they have where they are just buzzing in the offensive zone and overwhelm the opposition. They came mighty close to going up 5-4.

Matt Murray made 29 saves in the loss.

Pittsburgh had four players with multi-point games:

Sidney Crosby – 1 Goal, 1 Assist
Jake Guentzel – 2 Assists
Evgeni Malkin – 2 Assists
Bryan Rust – 2 Assists


TIOPS X’S & O’s

Blues counter Penguins aggressiveness to with surgical performance in transition

A staple of the Penguins under Mike Sullivan is live and die with their defensemen pinching along the boards. In tonight’s loss it haunted the Penguins, especially in the third period.

St. Louis was extremely efficient in transition.

They caught the Penguins up ice all game and pushed the pace the other way with their d-men jumping up in the play for high danger chances with great success.

Early in the third period with the Penguins trailing 3-2, Brian Dumoulin pinches down the left boards, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the proper support from the forward up high and St. Louis counters with a goal the other way.

 

Moments later in the third period, Ian Cole pinches down the right wall and again the Penguins don’t have forward support and Matt Hunwick who really struggled in the loss tries to make an aggressive hit and with no help behind him and the Blues are off to races for a 2-on-0 the other way.

Pittsburgh’s transition defense was in preseason mode.

Among the forward group tonight, the Malkin line was among the culprits in being a problem with their transition D.

When playing Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel together, the Penguins are sometimes playing with fire when it comes to their d-zone play.

The line was constantly up the ice and out of the play, especially in the first two periods.

On Brayden Schenn’s first period goal, Cole turned the puck over on a hard forecheck and there was no line of defense as Malkin, Kessel, and Rust were up the ice and failed to read Cole was being forechecked hard with pressure.

Then the line got caught deep in the offensive zone that led to an odd-man rush the other way and Olli Maatta getting caught flat footed with a tripping penalty on Parayko.

St. Louis would convert on the power play chance a 1:19 later to take a 2-1 lead.


Teaching Moment for PK
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McKegg shines in debut

One of the best players on the ice tonight was Penguins center Greg McKegg. McKegg played to his strengths, he was buzzing on the forecheck, but in playing the third line center role, he produced a lot of offense in the OT loss.

McKegg made a great pass between two defenders to setup Conor Sheary for the game tying goal in the third period. His offensive game, though, really started taking off in the second period.

A few instances stand out in period two.

McKegg showed excellent separation speed through the neutral zone on a transition play Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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